Respectfully, from the viewpoint of a young Republican,
Rush Limbaugh made headlines several weeks ago for commenting that he hopes Obama and his policies fail. What could have been spun as an unfortunate slip of the tongue or misunderstanding was instead clarified and repeated beyond any doubt. But, there was a glimmer of hope that the GOP might finally put Rush in his place. Michael Steele, RNC chairman, remarked on CNN that Rush was an entertainer, not the de facto leader of the Republicans and that his show was “incendiary… ugly.” Unfortunately, Steele lost his backbone, and apologized for his comments saying, “I respect Rush Limbaugh, he is a national conservative leader, and in no way do I want to diminish his voice”. He went on to apologize for distracting Americans and the party from the real issue, the irresponsibility of Democrat backed expansion of government.
This is disappointing. An opportunity was given to Republican leadership to truly distance and differentiate themselves from such a controversial character. And that’s what Rush has become really, a character; or maybe more accurately, a caricature. True, he does espouse and embody the main principles of the conservative, but they are massively amplified and extreme versions of these beliefs. Add in a nearly self delusional sized ego, and you have the makings of the lightening rod that Rush Limbaugh has become.
At the same time, he has been incredibly important to the conservative movement for these exact reasons. His high profile is critical in directing the spot light on the issue of the day. His comments and views are repeated and debated in living rooms, break rooms and chat rooms nationwide. A national dialogue might be considered incomplete without the two cents, or more often ten cents of his radio show. What’s my problem then? The guy gets the ‘job’, as it were, done. Who cares about his tactics?
My problem, my disagreement with Rush Limbaugh is that these tactics have overstayed their usefulness. Like it or not, politics in America has reached a new era. The fact that the audacity of the idea of hope won an entire election should put to bed any ideas that confrontational negativity and arrogance have any place in the political debate. In a Jesse Jackson-esque sort of way, Rush Limbaugh continues to make incendiary remarks in an apparent effort to stay relevant. No doubt, Rush scares the hell out the opposition. They often find his comments and views jaw droppingly appalling, ingratiating and pathetically polarizing. A fact that some consider a badge of pride. And it would be if politics were a zero-sum game, but it isn’t.
If the Republican party hopes to survive the next several election cycles, we must be courting the center and moderates. Offering new innovative ideas and prove that they work better and make life better for Americans. This will not happen if a person like Rush Limbaugh is considered the leader of the party, either by fellow conservatives or those we wish to bring into the party. Popping off that he hopes that Obama fails simply highlights his shallowness and supreme ego, and by association makes conservatives look like bitter and selfish sore losers. Wanting Obama, and in turn America, to fail; wishing continued suffering on millions just so that he can be right, is plain awful. More worrisome to conservatives, is that it is the rallying cry of defeat. It’s praying that the team who beat us loses in the finals out of spite, instead of regrouping and proving we’re better next season. Practically, it simply adds ammunition to the liberal case against conservatism.
I do not think that Rush Limbaugh speaks for the Republican party, and certainly does not speak for me. I think he is a shining example of what is wrong with the current state of the party. I also find it hard to believe that ignorance and arrogance are homophones by chance. There will be many who will say, ‘screw the opposition, we don’t want their company anyway’. And that would be exactly wrong. The Republican party is by nature an inclusive party, and it is saddening to see so many of its members embracing rhetoric designed to mock and ridicule those who disagree.
With Rush Limbaugh’s immense audience and following, he has the ability to influence the direction the the GOP’s base will take. I hope that in the future he would influence the national dialogue in a positive way, instead of making headlines for selfish and unfortunate comments. I also hope that the party leadership has the spine to take control of the ship, instead of leaving it to the winds, or the gusts of an aging icon.